2. • Horror has been around since stories began and have been used as a way to
entertain and scare people for centuries. Originally being passed around from
mouth to mouth, horror stories eventually became forms of literature and
evolved many sub genres, such as gothic horror, which is one of the original
types of horror and was the basis for many of the starting silent horror films.
The very first horror film was made in 1896 by Georges Meiles and was 3
minutes long called “Le Manoir du Diable”. However until the 1930’s, what we
know as Horror films were referred to as spook tales.
• Other early horror films include: the “ Granddaddy of Horror” made in 1919
called The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The first monster film “ The Golem
(1915/1920)” and the first vampire film “Noseferatu (1922)” based of the story
of count Dracula.
History Of Horror
3. frantic chase sequence typical of an action film. Contains a lot of violence and gore and the
most common entity the characters have to fight is the zombie, although most horror related
beings can be used, such as demons or vampires like in the film Blade.
• Body Horror: this features graphic and disturbing destruction of the body. It also includes
strange body movements that are unnatural and limbs being the wrong shape or in the
wrong location to create a monster, for example Frankenstein. A famous body horror film is
“The Thing” and Clive Barker is one of the most recognised directors.
• Comedy Horror: Combines humour and horror together, usually black comedy with use of
gore as a comedic factor. Shaun of the Dead is a good example of Comedy horror as it
contains standard horror conventions such as a monster ( in the form of a zombie) and
gore but is creative in the way it uses them, to make something that is usually frightening,
funny. Tim Burton has directed comedy horror in the form of sleepy hollow which was based
of the legend of the same name.
• Gothic Horror: Combines Goth and horror. This means it usually has a romance and is
suspenseful. Gothic horror is prominent in a lot of vampire films because of a vampires
charm. A lot of the earliest films belong to this genre and the most notable is Dracula based
of Bram Stokers novel of the same name.
• Natural Horror: Features things that you would see on earth but with a difference, as they
may be mutated, for example, insects and animals turned into killers. Steven Spielberg is
one of the most famous directors of the genre having directed JAWS, one of the most
famous natural horror films. An interesting fact about JAWS is that a lot of the suspense is
built because you don’t see the shark, a lot of the attacks are from its point of view. This is
because the mechanical shark was broken for most of the film.
• Psychological Horror: Relies on the characters fears, guilt and beliefs in addition to sinister
music and sound effects, as well as the mental stability of a character to build tension. The
most controversial film of this genre was the 1973 Exorcist by William Freidkin. A spooky
fact about this film was that a number of accidents accrued whilst filming and the film was
believed to be cursed.
• Sci-fi Horror: In this version of horror, the antagonist is usually an alien, mad scientist or an
experiment gone wrong. One of the most famous films is Alien by Ridley Scott.
4. • Setting: Usually an isolated place with either a dark or sad history, or where the
inhabitants are strange or nowhere to be found. Good locations include: Space
stations, Asylums, Mansions, Dark forests, Cabins etc.
• Camera work: High and low angles to connote nightmares. Point of view shots are
used to see through the monsters eyes. Handheld shots are used to make action
seem frantic and confusing. The depth of field is changed to make it harder to
notice things so it is scarier when you do.
• Sound: Disturbing sounds are extremely important. For instance ambient sounds
that are diegetic can puncture silence creating an eerie atmosphere as do non
diegetic sounds such as a heartbeat and even the soundtrack.
• Editing: Creates an unsettling feeling due to the tension and suspense it creates. If
the editing becomes slower and less frequent then it hints that something bad is
about to happen.
• Visual: Dark colours with a lot of black and red to connote fear and death, blood and
• Lighting: Generally low key lighting to help build shadows and create an unsettling
• Props and costumes: many costumes and props can be identified with iconic
characters or monsters, for example, a burnt red jumper and a five fingered gauntlet
is related to Freddy Kruger, whereas rotting flesh and torn clothes can be
associated with a zombie. Knifes are linked with slasher flicks and cloaks and fangs
make you think of vampires. Good props and costumes are very important as it give
the film an identity that sets it apart from others, as well as making the setting seem
• Characters: Protagonist=victim, Antagonist=monster/alien, often some sort of
police officer, Teenagers to die, ghosts, strange children etc.
• Themes: Good vs. Evil, Survival, Religion, Dark history, Insanity, Apocalypse etc.
Conventions of Horror
5. • In horror a typical structure follows the 3 act structure. The first act consists of
the main characters being introduced and finding themselves in a threatening
or frightening setting. The next act consists of the characters encountering the
villain and there being an initial onslaught that kills some characters. They then
warn the others but eventually start to survive and try and find their way out of
the situation. The climax ends with a final confrontation with the villain, with
varying results depending on the film, for example in the saw franchise, the
main character usually suffers a horrible fate, whereas in Friday the 13th Jason
is killed, however almost all horror films end with the possibility that the villain
can come back.
• Noel Carroll came up with a horror philosophy that they all follow.
• The Onset phase: disorder happens, usually caused by a monster
• Discovery phase: Characters discover that disorder has occurred
• Disruption phase: Characters find the source of the chaos and destroy it
6. • A Horror film is defined as a piece of media with the purpose of shocking and
terrifying it’s audience. Therefore the target audience of a horror film is people
looking to be scared, however lots of people find different things scary, and
parts of horror may be in other genres of film such as action or sci-fi.
• Horror movies are typically aimed at people in the age range of 15-25 and
usually male. This is because the action and gore of a horror film is
stereotypically associated with what the male gender like and older people
may find the over the top gore and violence too off putting.
• However recently it has been shown that women have watched more films
classed in the horror genre than men, the first time this has happened. But
another reason why males find it appealing may be due to the fact that almost
all directors and producers of horror films are male and so will cater it to what
they feel is good which may be different to a woman.
7. • There is no denying that the horror genre is one of the most popular genres of
all time because some of the very earliest films, such as Golem and Nosferatu,
are horror films, and on the list of the top 100 grossing films of all time, twelve
of them are horror films. They are rooted in film history, as they are generally
cheap to make, usually sticking to one setting, so directors and producers
continue to make them.
• It is most popular with younger audiences, around the age of 15-25 years old,
however it is still popular with an older audience. This is because it is good for
couples on dates, both married and newly together as the fear and suspense
of a horror films makes it easier to comfort each other and have something to
talk about after the film.
• People keep coming back to horror for different reasons. One being gore
watching. This is the people who watch a horror film for the violence and
emphasise most with the killer. This type of watching is mostly in males as it is
low empathy and low in fear. Another reason is thrill watching, people who
keep watching horror films because they enjoy being scared and like the
suspense the films build throughout the film. The next reason is independent
watching, is when people identify most with the victim but in a positive way, so
they are rooting for them to survive. The last way of watching is called problem
watching and again this is when someone identifies with the victim but in a
negative way, for example wishing for them to fail or believing they will not
How Popular Is Horror?
8. • Alien: This film was made in 1979 and is one of the best examples of sci-fi
horror in history with a number of sequels, spin offs (Prometheus or Aliens vs
Predator) and video games being made because of the popularity of the
original. It was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Sigourney Weaver, the plot
followed the crew of a space vessel returning to earth who intercepts a
distress call from a nearby planet, where they find an unknown alien egg which
hatches and a creature latches onto one of the crew. What follows is a
desperate fight for survival made scarier by the claustrophobic environment of
a small ship and for the audience at the time seeing and hearing a creature
nether before seen. The film brought about iconic sound design, such as the
beep of a motion sensor and the screech of a hunting xenomorph. The
ambient noise that was created made an extremely thick and nerve-racking
atmosphere as the creaking of the spaceship could be heard in the silence of
space. The special effects and props also added to the atmosphere of the film.
The famous chest burst scene is even more disturbing as it is not CGI but an
actual physical pops and makeup. This is even more impressive considering
the film was made in 1979 when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today,
yet it is still considered one of the best films of its genre.
Three Of The Most Iconic Horror Films- Alien
9. • The Shining: The shining was based of the novel of the same name by Steven
Spielberg, one of the best Horror writers of all time, so it should have been
good given the source material. However the film, directed by Stanley Kubrick,
was initially met with a lot of criticism from fans of the novel sating that it didn’t
stay true to the novel, although eventually it did end up turning a profit.
Nowadays the film is looked on much more favourably and is considered a
must watch for horror fans and a cult classic. The film had very good camera
work and is famous for the tracking shot of the boy riding his tricycle through
the hotel. It had a specially made low-pole version of the steady cam to do
this. The continuous shot accompanied with the low angle and the diegetic
sound of the tricycle in the vast empty space of the hotel, makes the boy
appear vulnerable, giving the impression he is being followed. This in turn
made the audience feel uncomfortable as there is no non-diegetic sound in
this scene building up suspense as you expect the boy to turn down a corridor
with something unnatural in it. ( Click the video to see the shot).
Three Of The Most Iconic Horror Films-The Shining
10. • The Exorcist: The exorcist (directed by William Freidkin) is a grate
achievement in horror being the first of its genre to be nominated for best
picture and grossing $411 million worldwide. Today it’s prop work and imagery
is still extremely disturbing and made even more uncomfortable for the
audience because it was a young girl who was possessed but instead of her
appearing helpless, instead she was doing disturbing actions such as a
180degree rotation of the head. In addition the use of special effects and make
up was extremely good even for todays standards and it was made in 1973 on
a budget of $12million. Special effects included levitation, unnatural body
movements and revolting vomiting, all designed to shock and disgust the
audience. It has been voted scariest horror movie of all time by Entertainment
weekly and movie.com and also it was placed number 2 on channel fours top
100 scariest moments. The spider walk is one of the most iconic scenes from
the film as it is in high key lighting as the girl runs down the stairs finishing with
a close up of the deformed position. This was very repulsive for the audience
as the high key lighting made for an inviting setting which was the family
home. To have the body horror, that was the spider walk in this setting would
be chilling as it is an invasion of your safety and privacy by a demonic entity.
Three Of The Most Iconic Horror Films- The Exorcist
11. • Most horror films fall in the age category of 18 or 15, however some have
been rated 12A for reasons such as their being no gore and only mild violence.
A good example of this would be “ Woman In Black” staring Daniel Radcliff, as
it contains little blood with no swearing and is only mildly scary. Horror films
classified as a 15 are rated so, typically due to the strong violence they
contain, sexual nudity and strong language. If a horror film is rated 18 it
contains the same as the films rated 15 however it is all intensified and more
frequent. This is how the Uk classifies films, but it differs from country to
country, for example the USA uses RESTRICTED instead of an 18 age rating.
In addition film ratings will differ from country to country, for instance the
conjuring was rated a 15 in the UK as it had little strong language and the
violence wasn’t gory enough to be rated 18 whereas in the USA it is rated
RESTRICTED purely because it is scary.
Horror Film Age Ratings
12. • Vladimir Propp was a soviet Russian who developed this theory
after studying fairy tales and noticing a pattern in their characters.
This pattern can be applied to most films including Horror, these
• Hero- character who is mostly focused on
• Villain- opposes the hero
• Donor- provides hero with something
• Dispatcher- sends hero a request/message
• False hero- disrupts the heroes progress by trying to help or by
making false claims
• Helper- aids hero
• Princess- someone who needs to be saved or offers a reward
• Father- acts to reward the hero for helping
Propp’s Character Theory
13. • This is the theory that maintains the more you are exposed to something the
less you are affected by it. The theory suggests that the more you are exposed
to specific actions, such as horror and violence the less of an effect it has on
• This is extremely important for horror films as the purpose is to horrify. For
instance the first SAW was very disturbing when it first came out and is
considered the best of the franchise. Since then people have come to expect
the gore and imagery that the SAW franchise provides and since the first they
have had worse and worse reviews. This is evidence that the desensitisation
theory is correct and has led to films trying to outdo each other, such as the
Human Centipede which was banned in the UK for being too disturbing.
15. • George Romero: Famous for pioneering the zombie genre of horror he is
responsible for directing some the most iconic zombie films including Night Of
The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, becoming the
source material for many zombie films after.
• Alfred Hitchcock: Famous for the suspense he created in his films such as
psycho’s iconic shower and the natural horror film Birds in which man eating
birds attack a town.
• Stanley Kubrick: Famous for the controversial clock work orange and the
psychotic horror The Shining, all of his films have a scary setting and
background adding to the suspenseful camera work , such as the famous
tracking shots of the shining.
Famous Horror Directors